The large number of elected officials running to fill the job left vacant by the death of Congressman Alcee Hastings is creating a domino effect of turnover in their jobs, all of which will be filled by appointments or special elections.
One result: Some Broward and Palm Beach County voters may go unrepresented for most or all of the 2022 annual state legislative session in Tallahassee.
In an attempt to avoid that, congressional candidate Barbara Sharief said Wednesday that three of her competitors for the nomination to succeed Hastings should consider resigning their current jobs right away. If they do that, she hopes special elections for the Florida House and Florida Senate could be run at the same time as the congressional election.
The three state legislators that were the subject of her suggestion — state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy and state Sen. Perry Thurston, all candidates for the congressional seat — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The issue Sharief highlighted has been widely discussed in political circles. Last week, Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott lamented the the possibility that people living in three state legislative districts might have no voice in next year’s state legislative session.
It’s a result of a complicated interaction of partisan politics and state law:
- So far, more than 10 candidates — including five current elected officials — are seeking the Democratic nomination to fill the vacancy left by Hastings’ April 6 death. The two-county 20th Congressional District is so Democratic, the winner of that primary is certain to go to Washington, D.C.
- The Republican governor sets the dates of the special election. DeSantis decided to keep the job open for more than nine months, setting Election Day on Jan. 11, which is far longer than usual.
Sharief and many other Democrats said that’s because DeSantis wants to make it harder for Democrats in Congress to pass legislation by depriving them of one more vote. “I think those dates were set strategically to keep us from having representation,” Sharief said. “The slimmer that you can keep the Democratic majority, the better off the Republicans are.”
- Florida law requires elected officials to submit irrevocable resignations from their current jobs to run for something else. Those resignations would normally take effect about the time of the Jan. 11 special election. The deadline is likely late August or early September, but hasn’t been announced by the state Division of Elections, which is under DeSantis’ control.
- Resign-to-run declarations at that point could mean special elections to fill the seats in the state legislature might not take place until months into the new year. Since the 60-day legislative session begins next year in January, there might be no state-level representation in the DuBose, Hardy and Thurston seats during that time.
Scott said on Friday and Sharief said on Wednesday they’d like DeSantis to set special legislative elections at the same time as the elections for the congressional seat, with a primary in November and the general election in January. There are no vacancies right now. Sharief said that could be overcome by DuBose, Hardy and Thurston resigning right away, creating immediate vacancies.
Sharief’s call is aimed at putting some political heat on the three lawmaker-competitors. She and another congressional candidate, Dale Holness, are both Broward County commissioners, but Sharief’s call for immediate resignations doesn’t apply to herself or Holness. Their vacancies get filled by gubernatorial appointment, not a special election.